2nd Infantry Division Welcomes New Command Sergeant Major

The 2nd Infantry Division has a new Command Sergeant Major to help lead the move to Camp Humphreys:

Second Infantry Division Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell passes the unit colors to Maj. Gen. Scott McKean at Camp Casey, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

The 2nd Infantry Division has a new senior enlisted adviser to help oversee its move from camps near the Demilitarized Zone to a state-of-the-art base south of Seoul.

Division Command Sgt. Maj. Phil Barretto took responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell on Friday during a ceremony at Camp Casey.

“[Barretto’s] fired up and ready to go,” said Maj. Gen. Scott McKean, the division’s commander.

Barretto, former commandant for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Drum, N.Y., arrives on the peninsula with 26 years of experience that includes previous tours to Korea and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.


Report Details Actions Taken By US Army Soldiers to Save the Life of North Korean Soldier Shot While Defecting to South Korea

The Stars & Stripes has a good read about the actions the American medical evacuation team took to save the life of the North Korean soldier who defected across the Joint Security Area and was shot five times by his comrades:

From left to right, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nathan Gumm, pilot; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Tirro, co-pilot; Spc. Carroll Moore, crew chief; Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh, flight medic; and Pfc. Karina Lopez, radio operator, pose at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. MARCUS FICHTL/STARS AND STRIPES

The crew had just returned to Camp Casey, a base near the heavily fortified frontier that divides the peninsula, after a more than three-hour training mission when radio operator Pfc. Karina Lopez told them to stand by for a real mission.

After initial confusion about whether the team was needed, Lopez got the call at 4:04 p.m., about an hour after events had begun to unfold, and the team took off five minutes later.

“That’s when I started … calling the hospital, trying to figure out which hospital they were going to take him to,” said the 20-year-old from Raleigh, N.C.

Singh and his teammates had only basic information that somebody had suffered a gunshot wound to the torso at the Joint Security Area. But that was enough for concern.

“I was in Iraq and Afghanistan … that’s what you expect there,” said Gumm, the 37-year-old pilot. “Here you’d expect a concussion or the other types of missions that we’ve had, not a gunshot wound to the torso. So it was surprising.”

It took about seven minutes to get to Camp Bonifas, the base near the JSA, where more than a dozen people met them carrying the wounded soldier on a stretcher in a chaotic scene.

“We had to kick some people out of the helicopter,” said crew chief Spc. Carroll Moore, 25, of Lenoir, N.C., adding there was only room for two escorts from the security battalion.

Singh, 39, of San Antonio, said he immediately spotted signs that a lung was in danger of collapsing so he did a needle chest decompression, with a 3.5-inch needle. He also worked to stop the blood from hemorrhaging.

The defector, who was in and out of consciousness, asked for water at one point, but Singh said he couldn’t have any because of the nature of his wounds.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the whole article at the link, but great job by everyone involved to save this defectors life.

F-22 Raptors and F-35A Lightning Jets to Come to Korea for Joint Exercise Next Month

Here is another example of strategic assets being used as a show of force towards North Korea:

The United States is planning to send six F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to a joint air force exercise in South Korea next month in what is believed to be U.S. action to put maximum pressure on North Korea, military officials here said on Thursday.

“Six F-22 fighters from the U.S. Air Force are scheduled to join the joint South Korea-U.S. air force exercise Vigilant Ace from Dec. 4-8,” the officials said.

The fighters will fly to the Korean Peninsula from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan and stay at an air base in South Korea throughout the exercise, according to officials. Up to four F-35A Lightning stealth fighters are also likely to join the deployment, they said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Joint Security Area Soldiers Presented ARCOMs for Rescuing North Korean Defector

This will probably be an award these soldiers will remember for the rest of their lives considering the unusual circumstances leading to the award and who presented it to them:

In recognition for their efforts in rescuing a North Korean defector, Nov.13, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea commander, awarded Joint Security Area Soldiers the Army Commendation medal, during a ceremony Nov. 23.

Awardees are Sgt. 1st Class Noh Yeong Soo, Sgt. 1st Class Song Seoung Hyeon, Sgt. Robert Hartfield, Maj. Jeffery Schmidt, Lt. Col. Kwon Young Hwan, and Lt. Col. Matthew Farmer  [USFK Facebook]

You can watch video of the award presentation at this link on the USFK Facebook site as well.  Basically the soldiers received an ARCOM because they were able to pull the North Korean defector to safety while at the same not escalating the situation or violating the armistice like the North Korean soldiers had already done.

USFK to Increase Transparency By Releasing Non-Confidential Information

Make no mistake that the only reason the anti-US groups want increased transparency is to use any documents they can demagogue and not provide full context of to inflame public opinion against USFK:

In a major step to enhance transparency in American forces stationed here, South Korea and the United States agreed on Tuesday to make public any non-confidential information they have in relation to the United States Forces Korea.

“The Joint Committee discussed cooperative efforts to further enhance transparency of SOFA-related affairs with the Korean public,” the allies said in a joint press release following the 198th joint committee meeting of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) earlier in the day.

SOFA is a bilateral agreement detailing the legal terms for the U.S. stationing of some 28,000 troops in South Korea.

“The Joint Committee agreed to cooperate in every possible way to disclose non-confidential information related to SOFA implementation agreements to enhance public awareness and use well-established SOFA procedures,” according to the joint release.

Each year, the allies produce about 100 documented agreements and they will all be made available for public view except those that are classified as military secrets or have special reason for nondisclosure, a ranking ministry official said.

The latest agreement came amid increasing local civil demand for more transparency in matters related to the USFK’s more than six-decade stationing in the South against potential North Korean aggression.

Claiming the public right to know, two civil rights groups have filed an administrative litigation, demanding the defense minister disclose details of the South Korea-U.S. negotiations leading to the deployment of the American defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in South Korea.

The Seoul Administrative Court, however, dismissed the civic groups’ suit, saying the information is classified.

Environmental pollution at American military bases in South Korea has also led to increased calls for public access to USFK-related information.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

High School on Yongsan Garrison to Keep “American” In Its Name

I agree that the word “American” should be kept in the name of the school to distinguish it from other international schools in South Korea:

After a public outcry, the word “American” was restored to the name of the soon-to-be-consolidated middle/high school at the Army’s Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, officials said Wednesday.

“Please know that we acknowledge and appreciate the proud legacy of our Seoul American Schools,” Lois Rapp, a Department of Defense Education Activity official, said in an email. “The combined school will be named Seoul American Middle/High School.”

Falling enrollment due to the ongoing move of U.S. troops and their families to Camp Humphreys as the military transitions its headquarters 40 miles south of Seoul prompted DODEA to combine the Seoul American Middle School and the Seoul American High School.

In a memo to parents and a recent town hall, school officials said the combined school would be called the Seoul Middle High School.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

US Army Officer Gets Emotional About His Family’s Safety in South Korea

The below video is from an interview that CNN’s Brooke Baldwin did with a US Army Lieutenant Colonel who get emotional talking about his family’s safety in South Korea:

I can understand why this officer got emotional talking about his family’s safety, but this is probably not the best image for the US Army to put forward.  It seems to me that if he is so fearful for his family’s safety he should of did an unaccompanied tour to Korea.

President Trump to Make Visit to Camp Humphreys During Trip to South Korea

Via a reader tip comes this news that President Trump’s first stop in South Korea will be to Camp Humphreys:

Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.

U.S. President Donald Trump will visit Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, as the first destination during his visit to South Korea from Nov. 7 to 8, officials said Tuesday.

It will be the first visit of a U.S. president to the headquarters of the Eighth U.S. Army which relocated there in July.

The Eighth Army moved to the post after more than 60 years at Yongsan, central Seoul, as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s relocation project for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) following more than a decade of planning since 2003.

Camp Humphreys is the largest U.S. Army Garrison overseas. It occupies 14.68 square kilometers of land ― three times the size of the Yongsan garrison ― with 513 buildings including schools, shops and banks as well as other facilities such as gyms, theaters and a water park for USFK personnel and their families.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but I wonder if 8th Army senior leaders will mention all the anti-US protestsfraud, corruption, delays, and the fact units are moving into incomplete buildings that occurred to get this expansion project complete?  No probably not, but it would be great to see President Trump’s reaction to if he saw pictures like this from a past protest to stop the expansion project:

The 2nd Infantry Division in Korea Celebrates Its 100-Year Anniversary

From the Stars & Stripes:

The 2nd Infantry Division looked to the future and the past Thursday as it celebrated its centennial with a mass re-enlistment ceremony for 100 soldiers and a time capsule.

Against the background of a hill covered with autumn foliage, 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. Scott McKean praised the soldiers for renewing their service while stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North.

Tensions have been rising in recent months as the communist state increases the pace of its banned nuclear weapons program.

“Volunteering to continue your service in defense of our great nation, and to do it in the face of the enemy, on freedom’s frontier, that Warriors, is a sign of commitment and courage,” he said.

The ceremony on a field on Camp Casey, an Army base near the heavily fortified border that divides the peninsula, marked the start of a day of celebration as the Warrior Division celebrated its 100th birthday. [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

USFK Says THAAD Battery Deployment Now Fully Complete

The deployment of THAAD to South Korea which the ROK government has called temporary has now been fully completed according to USFK:

This file photo, taken Sept. 12, 2017, shows a launcher of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being positioned at a U.S. military base in Seongju, 300 kilometers south of Seoul. The U.S. Army, which transported four additional THAAD launchers to the base Sept. 7, has installed them there and is ready to operate them, along with two of the six THAAD launchers previously installed.

The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Sunday it has officially set up the unit charged with operating the advanced missile defense system deployed in the country.

A ceremony was held in the southeastern county of Seongju on Thursday to transfer the Delta Battery of the 11th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade in Fort Bliss, Texas, to the 35th ADA Brigade in South Korea, official sources said.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, which has missile launchers, command and control facilities and a powerful radar, was first deployed in April as part of the Global Response Force amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. At the time there were two interceptor launchers stationed in the rural county. Four more were added last month.

In September, South Korea announced that the deployment of a THAAD battery in the county had been completed in a “tentative” step to counter threats from North Korea. The battery has been operational, but the military unit and manpower operating it has not fully been in place.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.